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U.S. Congress

Carl Malamud

Report to the Congress—Submitted on March 13, 2007

Introduction

By the end of the 110th Congress, the U.S. House of Representatives could achieve the goal of providing broadcast-quality video of all hearings and the floor for download on the Internet.

Summary

This collection consists of a variety of materials prepared to demonstrate to Congressional officials that a substantial upgrade in the quality of their video record of hearings is in order. The collection consists of three types of activities. First, a large number of hearings were "ripped" off of the streaming media servers used by the U.S. Congress and posted to the Internet Archive and Google Video. Second, an unsolicited report was submitted to the Speaker of the House. Third, after a series of discussions with the Office of the Speaker, the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer, and officials from the Committees on House Administration, Oversight, Judiciary, and Energy/Commerce, a series of high-resolution MPEG-2 streams from selected hearings are being posted.

Further Reading

Report to the Speaker of the House

Boing. Boing. Boing.

All the Government's Information (A Google Tech Talk)

Three Solutions

The original Report to the Speaker was originally posted March 13, 2007. On August 3, 2007, we were pleased to give the following updates:

  1. As a short-term solution, private citizens are now able to order full-resolution discs of committee hearings directly from the Chief Administrative Officer of the House of Representatives. The service is known as First Call+, their phone number is (202) 225-8000, and the order form is here. Note that in order to get a committee hearing, you must first get the form signed by the committee chairman. To date, four committees have agreed to such postings. You may find examples here on the Internet Archive from the committees on Energy/Commerce (this one features Chad Hurley in a suit!), House Administration (check out the Diebold machine getting hacked!), Oversight, and Judiciary.
  2. Several months of feasibility studies, discussions, and other investigation have resulted in a recommendation by the Advanced Business Solutions unit of the Chief Administrative Officer. A medium-term solution was considered, consisting of copying thee contents of DVD jukebox maintained by the House Recording Studio onto an FTP server. At 3.6 gbytes/hour, the number of users would be small, and one can always throttle the bandwidth. If there isn't enough space for all 11,000 hours in the archive dating back to the beginning of 2005, it was proposed that the cache size could be limited, discs could be put on-line for a period of time, and then rotated with fresh material. Groups such as the Internet Archive, Google Video, and the Government Printing Office have all agreed this is a feasible solution and they would grab the files and distribute them further. The analysis of this short-term solution by the Advanced Business Solutions unit has concluded: “from a technical stand point we now know this is very easy and inexpensive to do.”
  3. As a long-term strategy, the Office of the Speaker has conducted a large number of meetings, as has the Committee on House Administration, the Chief Administrative Officer, and several other groups. There is a concrete, funded set of initiatives to finish the wiring of the rooms so that all hearings have video coverage, and it is clear from a technical point of view that it is possible to achieve the goal of broadcast-quality video for download on the Internet by the end of the 110th congress. The recommendation to adopt that goal is currently awaiting action from the Office of the Speaker and the Chairman of the Committee on House Administration.

Carl Malamud (carl AT media.org) for Public.Resource.Org.

Additional Resources


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U.S. Congress
by Committee on Financial Services
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by Committee on Oversight and Government Reform
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Topic: Committee on Oversight and Government Reform